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Texas A&M Professor Helps Solve One Of Music’s Greatest Mysteries On AXS TV

Philosophy professor Claire Katz helped AXS TV unravel the mystery of what happened to The Dixie Chicks.

By Rachel Knight ‘18

When a popular girl band wrote a song titled “Cowboy Take Me Away,” in the late 90s, they probably didn’t mean for the lyrics to be taken literally by the United States president and media. 

The Chicks, previously known as The Dixie Chicks, captured small-town sentiments with songs like, “Wide Open Spaces,” “Travelin’ Soldier,”  “Landslide,” and other tongue-in-cheek hits

Their descent from country music fame happened just as quickly. One unpopular opinion uttered by lead singer Natalie Maines in 2003 about then-President George W. Bush set The Chicks on the path to become one of country music’s greatest disappearing acts. Could one comment really be what led to The Chicks’ fall from grace? On March 30, at 7 p.m., AXS TV will uncover the mystery of what happened to The Chicks with a little help from Texas A&M philosophy professor Claire Katz, who will guest in Music’s Greatest Mysteries (season two, episode two).. 

AXS TV sought Katz’s help solving The Chicks’ disappearance after coming across a scholarly article she wrote in 2008, which was inspired by a documentary about the band’s disappearance called Shut up and Sing

The Dixie Chicks hold four CMA awards in 2000.

In 2000, The Dixie Chicks won four CMA Awards including entertainer of the year, vocal group of the year, album of the year, and music video of the year.

“Something about how the ‘incident’ was being discussed bothered me and I couldn’t quite put my finger on it,” Katz shared. “So I did what all good humanities scholars do in this instance — I read a lot, walked a lot, and then wrote my way through it until I figured out what I thought was missing in the analysis of the story about them.”

Katz’s 2008 analysis ultimately concluded that the role gender played (evidenced by the gendered epithets) was  at the root of The Chicks’ disappearance from the music scene. She continues to research the role gender played in The Chicks’ story and said her research on the subject is even more important today.

“The response to Maines’ comment was so violent, so severe, and quite frankly so alarming,” Katz explained. “In civil society, is this how we respond to statements with which we disagree? Death threats? And in the end, The Chicks were right. It turned out that there were no weapons of mass destruction. Segments of the U.S. government manipulated the narrative to gain support to go to war. What happened to The Chicks is a reminder that people do not like statements that make them uncomfortable; that disrupt a belief they hold dear and that they might have to give up. This is a lesson that is unfortunately still needed today.”

In her interview with AXS, Katz draws from her continued research on the topic to help answer questions like what happened and why it was significant, were The Chicks the first victims of cancel culture, and more.

“Contrary to how many people describe their story as a story of redemption, I use the language of vindication and liberation,” Katz said. “The Chicks were liberated as women and as artists. I don’t mean to downplay the severe response to them — the pain and loss of income, and quite frankly the fear from such a vicious response. But they were forced to redefine themselves, to think about who they are and who they want to be vis-a-vis the music industry and their fans.”

After airing, the segment will be available online at